In the canon rules of The Fantasy Trip, priests are just like any other character. There is no character class for clerics or druids, as in D&D and other games. There are a few reasons for this, but the end result is that religious magic is left up to the GM and the players to work out. That means opportunity…
Please allow me to digress for a second. I hate the concept of character classes. Hate it. One of the things I loved about TFT was that there were no classes. The closest thing was you were a wizard or not. Period.
My problem with classes is that they restrict players and characters to someone else’s artificial constructs. I don’t like that the character is limited by what he can or cannot do, or what spells he can cast. The beauty of the talent portion of In The Labyrinth is that it lets the player create a character that matches exactly what he wants–and not have to shoehorn it around artificial barriers.
Clerics & Druids
The reason I went on this mini-rant is because the idea of clerics and druids embodies all of those restrictions. And that’s a shame. Priests and wizards have been a cornerstone in fantasy from the start. Whether it was the evil priest/sorcerer in stories like Conan or the wizard priests of the Deryni books–they’ve been around.
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about priestly spells like you find in D&D or Heroes & Other Worlds. I’m talking about the mechanics of religious magic–not the spells, but how do you make the priest magical within the rules of the game.
The “problem” with TFT is that it does not really spell out how to be a wizard-priest. You can be just a priest by buying the Priest talent; or you can be a wizard, buy the Priest talent (at 4 points–ouch!), and get other spells; or you can be a hero, buy the Priest talent at regular cost, then get spells for 3 points each. And that is only for normal magic–that assumes no influence by a holy or unholy god.
When you read the canon rules, they mention none of this. They talk about how if the GM determines that a religion is real, they may get some occasional influence on die rolls–very vague. So what is there to do?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer that I can see. It all depends. The GM (and not the players) must decide if a given religion has any influence. If it does, then the priest/priestess/shaman can pray away and hope for the best.
And, regardless of whether a religion has any influence, the character can still cast spells. No matter how you explain how the magic works, in order to keep it simple, just have religious spells work the same way as regular ones do. That keeps everything simple, stays within the canon rules, and everyone is happy.
If you want to take things further, though, you can limit the actual spells a priest-wizard can cast. The list itself would depend on how good or evil the religion is. You could also add the roleplaying element and play up how those spells are cast.
For example, a simple lightning spell can be cast by a wizard that strikes one of his opponents. But cast the same spell as an evil priest: the priest prays that his god EvilBadOne smite his enemies with his power and cast fear into the hearts of the unbelievers… And WHAM! The mechanics are the same, but Fritz is still a crispy critter, fried by the power of the Evil God–with a lot mor pizzazz.
I think TFT has more opportunities for religious magic like that than the higher-plane magics you find in high level AD&D games. Maybe that is just how I like the feel of my fantasy gaming. In the end, it is up to you and how you want to play any game–but whatever you do, have fun and play it up!
So–how have you handled priests and religion magic in your TFT campaigns? Any house rules or roleplaying ideas? Let me know!